It is sometimes only when we look back, that we see how strange a situation we were once in. In the mid-to-late 90s, within a few months, I was giving a talk and seminar at the World Bank in Washington then on the other side of the world, running a workshop on a beach with local fishermen in Cebu Province in the Philippines.
The common thread was social development; the Bank were interested in new ways to measure the effectiveness of aid interventions, whilst in the Philippines, working with the organisation the Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (PhilDHRRA), we were trying to strengthen local organisations entry into a global market created by the Washington consensus, the negative impact of which was being felt by small scale farmers and fishermen. I’m still not sure if either of these ‘interventions’ was the right thing. However, the experience of working in the Philippines for a short time, has never left me. The privilege of working with and befriending local people is probably the only way a foreign person is able to really see a country.
I am reminded of this experience when reading RA Villanueva’s brilliant collection, Reliquaria that has a number of poems from his heritage in the Philippines. But the thoughts are not solely because of my personal experience, but more widely of the influence of the ‘foreign’ on traditional ways, in this case Catholicism, Spanish and American influence in the country. In Ron’s poem, Telemachy, (more…)